Tips on Making Groceries Last
Published April 9, 2020
Perishable foods are the main focus here: vegetables, fruits, meats/fish/poultry, and dairy products. (Shelf stable items like beans, GF grains, and nuts have much longer – but not indefinite – shelf lives.)
Both quality and safety are considerations when determining how long foods can be kept. We’re all trying to stretch things out, but keep in mind there is a limit on how long perishable foods will stay safe in the refrigerator, so either consume or freeze if not using within that time frame.
Here’s a comprehensive website* where you can find out how long things last in the refrigerator, freezer, or pantry. Fourteen categories cover everything from baby food to seafood to deli and prepared foods. https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep-food-safe/foodkeeper-app
*Run by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services of the federal government
Making the most of things before freezing
- Small amounts of random vegetables (e.g. broccoli, asparagus, green beans, chard) – use in: stir fries, curries, vegetable bowls, omelets, frittatas, and soups.
- Chicken – If you haven’t done this before, now’s the time: Use the bones (and bits of meat) to make soup or stock. Stock can then be frozen in ice cube trays to add great flavor later to dishes like gluten-free grains (use some stock in place of some of the water) and stir fries.
General tips: Separate items into portion sizes you’ll want to thaw. Wrap well. Label & date. Liquids: leave space for expansion.
- Milk. Can freeze; texture is generally affected. Freeze in an airtight container and leave space at the top since it will expand as it freezes.
- Cheese. Hard cheeses freeze well. Softer cheeses’ texture may be affected. https://www.thespruceeats.com/can-i-freeze-cheese-1327672
- Sauces/condiments. Tomato paste, pesto, sauces used in small amounts. Fill ice cube trays; after frozen pop into Ziplock bag. Or spread into thin layer in a Ziplock bag and lay flat in freezer until frozen. Pieces can be broken off while frozen (without thawing the whole thing) as needed.
- Meats (ground beef, chicken breasts, bacon, other). Separate into quantities you’ll want to thaw BEFORE freezing. Otherwise can’t separate when frozen.
- Fruits & Vegetables. Since fruits and vegetables have a high moisture content, texture will be affected after freezing, but quality is still good. https://extension.umn.edu/preserving-and-preparing/science-freezing-foods
- Grains. Freeze GF grains like rice, quinoa, and sorghum after cooking in Ziplock bags, in meal-size packages.